Interview with Taye Diggs and Executive Producer, Matthew Gross, of Day Break

I was in another conference call. This time for the new ABC drama called Day Break. That’s the show that takes over the Lost timeslot of Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT for 13 weeks. On this call, press from around the world got a chance to interview the star of the show, Taye Diggs, and executive producer of the show, Matthew Gross.

Day Break is about Brett Hopper reliving the worst day of his life. He wakes up one day and is accused of killing Asst. DA Alberto Garza. He has an alibi, but no one believes him. When he realizes that he has been framed, he tries to run away but has to stop when he learns that his loved ones are also in danger. But the next morning, he wakes up and relives the same day over and over again. To stop this cycle, solve the mystery and have a normal life, he must find out who framed him.

Taye Diggs (Brett Hopper)

Taye Diggs plays Detective Brett Hopper on Day Break. He got his first start at acting in musicals, where he did a little singing and dancing. His first big movie was How Stella Got Her Groover Back. He has also been in several other movies including The Best Man, Chicago, and RENT: The Movie. He has had guest appearances on Guiding Light and Ally McBeal as well.

Here are the highlights of what was said in this conference call for Day Break with Taye Diggs and executive producer, Matthew Gross…

Taye, did you find that your Broadway background helped when you were choreographing fight scenes and things like that?

Taye Diggs: I could only assume that it helped, but you know this was quite a different type of character for me to play so I tried to kind of submerge myself into the character while I was on screen. But I guess you could say it probably didn’t hurt.

Taye, What’s been the biggest challenge for you in doing this role? Is it a continuity thing or is it just finding different fresh ways to approach each day or what?

TD: The two biggest challenges probably for me would be the schedule. They’re quite long hours. Then the second challenge would be to sustain emotionally where this character has to be because of the circumstances that he’s stuck in, you know, kind of remaining at that same pitch because you know his girlfriend’s life is at stake and as is the rest of his family. So day after day after day with stakes so high it’s definitely a challenge emotionally.

Matthew, I was just wondering if you could lay out the rules for the days repeating themselves? I mean obviously Brett carries over physical injury, and he carries over his memories but is it just him and for no one else?

MG: In this first season of the show it’s really just focusing on Taye’s day repeating itself. I mean what we were doing when we designed this series was that we wanted to create as few rules as possible. The one conceit that you have to accept is the fact that the days repeat themselves and then once you accept that it allows us to open up many stories that you can not tell in other TV shows. For example Rita gets killed in the pilot but she comes back, in a normal series you can’t do that. You can’t kill one of your main characters and have them return within the same episode. But in terms of the rules specifically that’s the one rule. The rule is the days repeating themselves and we didn’t want to add too many other than that because we wanted to ground the story and keep it as real as possible. And yes his injuries carry over. If his character is killed then we’re without a series.

Taye, what is the best and worst day of your real life?

TD: I don’t have a worst day in my life. As for the day I would want to relive over and over again. That would be my wedding day. That was just a great day and when I get asked that question that’s the answer that I’ve been using.

Taye, why did you decide to switch from movies to TV?

TD: It wasn’t necessarily the medium. I just continued to make my decisions based on the scripts. When I did Ally McBeal, West Wing, and Will and Grace, I thought they were high quality shows. I continue to make decisions based on the writing more so than where it is, you know theater as well. I like to mix it up. I’ve been very blessed in that I’ve been able to do a lot of different things throughout my career and I hope to continue to do so. So when this script came along it was nothing like I had ever read before and I had to be a part of it.

Taye, What do you like best about this character and show in general?

TD: A lot of the characters that I have played have not been as hard edged or as action-driven as this character. So that was definitely a draw. We have an amazing cast that I’m very proud of and, outside of the fact that it’s a grueling schedule, they make the days go by really, really quickly. It’s a blessing having such great writing to perform and it’s cool to be a macho dude. You know that’s always a blessing as well.

Taye, can you tell me your favorite TV shows right now?

TD: Right now I’m a big fan, as is everyone, of Grey’s Anatomy. I’m really digging Heroes. The Office, I’m a big fan of as well. Ugly Betty, I think is pretty refreshing and this FX show called Rescue Me, I’m a big fan of that as well.

Taye, was the show’s concept difficult for you to approach?

TD: Not at all. I think I need to thank the writers for that because I’m quickly finding that a lot of people have plenty of interesting questions regarding the concept but the way I read it and the way it was explained to me left me completely satisfied and it’s been a joy reading each script and seeing where the stories turn.

I just play each moment, moment to moment. Even the way the stories are designed there’s so much going on Brett Hoppe’s plate that he doesn’t really have much time to think about why this is happening to him. He’s just dealing with very real life circumstances, which are people’s lives being in danger and I just approach that the same way I would approach any other role you know.

Is this show a very hard drama or is there an element of comedy in it as well?

TD: There are definitely lighter episodes. I mean you can’t broach the subject of having a day repeat over and over without leaving some room for comedy. So there’s a little bit of that as well.

What sort of lifespan do you think this series would have, because sooner or later you’d imagine that it would have to reach some kind of conclusion?

TD: Yes. Well that’s what people said about 24 and a lot of other shows that are doing well. I think the fact that the day is repeating is just a device that we’re using but you know stories are endless and I think they’re just going to keep coming. I think…

MG: Let me jump in here a second.

TD: Yes.

MG: There’s actually no shortage of stories here and the way this series is designed in this first season is that he’s going to solve this conspiracy. He’s going to solve who’s framing him and why and heal many broken relationships along the way. And at the end of the season, it’s going to be the next day, so next season will be another day. So each season will be a day. So it will be a different conspiracy, a different case, a different reason why the day is broken and why Brett Hopper has to fix it.

So really it’s a cross between 24 and Groundhog Day. That’s how the concept started. I came up with this idea years ago and the idea started with what if you took the Groundhog Day concept but put it in a thriller versus a comedy. So what if a guy was accused of a murder, framed for murder he didn’t commit and then had to relive the same day until he figured his way out of it. So the next season, it’s going to be a different conspiracy and a different sort of insurmountable situation and the day is broken and only Brett Hopper can fix it.

Is there any concern about doing a serial drama now when the sentiment seems to be moving away from that format a little bit?

MG: Our philosophy from the beginning has been his Field of Dreams mentality. You know “if they build it, they will come”. And for us it’s all about entertainment. But we feel that our series is unique not only in concept but it allows us to catch the audience up every time they watch. So he has these memory hits and these memory hits will give the audience information of how he lived the day before, and how he’s going to live this day differently and what choices he makes. So it is a very user friendly show. I mean we would love everybody to watch every episode, but in the event they have a family emergency and couldn’t watch the television that day they shouldn’t feel like because they missed an episode, or if they came into this half way through the season, that they would get lost or they wouldn’t be able to follow it. They will be to catch up. At the beginning of every episode, we have what’s called the saga cell which brings the audience up to speed. So they have all the information needed to watch that episode. So that was very delivered.

And in terms of the serialized nature, most of the other serialized shows surround one event and then it sort of springs off from there. But as I said earlier each season is going to be a different day. It’ll be a different event. So that event will be wrapped up in this first season, much like 24. So although it’s serialized I think that the way we tell stories you’ll be able to follow very quickly just by the way it’s constructed and the concept of the show, by the repeating day.

How does an action TV series differ with an action movie?

TD: I guess the hours you know. It’s forces you to be on your game more because you’re shooting scene after scene and you have to get a certain amount of scenes, a certain amount of pages done each day. The downtime is a lot less in series television. And as far as acting is concerned it kind of flexes that muscle, it keeps you just on point a little bit more than I think feature films.

The pilot is packed full of a bunch of different sub plots, any of which could turn into a major story so how do you decide which of these little sub plots are worthy of whole episodes or major story lines?

MG: Well this series is very clever and it was brilliantly designed and written by Paul Zbyszewski and Jeff Bell. You will find that you should pay attention because everything in the pilot will pay off. So it’s all there. We knew what our end game was from the conception of the show. So we knew exactly what we were driving to and everything will be paid off. So it’s not a matter of choosing which way. The pilot is sort of like a spider web and it’s at the center and all these stories sort of spin off from it, but there’s nothing in that pilot that is arbitrary. I’ll leave it at that.

Matthew, how much of the ending of the story have you shared with Taye?

MG: We sort of share as he gets the scripts. We don’t want him to be ahead of his character. So he’s sort of experiencing it as the character is, you know unfolding. It would be unfair I think for us to tell him everything because it’s hard enough reliving the same day and keeping track of where your character is at that particular version of the day and how he feels emotionally and how he relates to the other characters who are going through the situation. So that was something that we agreed upon when we started. You know Taye didn’t want to know so we’re not telling him.

TD: It would just be too much and there’s no need. It helps as an actor to be a little bit more in the moment and to have more of a fresher perspective. You know you can’t help, having the knowledge of what will happen towards the end of the story, but have that influence your acting. You have to act as if you don’t know it at all. You can just let yourself kind of be in the moment so I prefer it that way as well. I mean there’s a selfish part of me that just wants to know how the whole thing ends but you know we’re almost done shooting so I’ll find out soon enough.

Is there any pressure to match the popularity of Lost since you took over that timeslot?

TD: No. It’s the exact opposite. We feel that it’s a gift and I feel just an amazing presence and support from the network in giving us this opportunity to make a mark. So I think we’re all up to the challenge and we just feel appreciated and we’re pretty confident and hopeful.

Taye, how do you keep your character interesting and yourself interesting since you’re revisiting similar scenarios so often?

TD: I mean I wish I could take credit. I just say that the words that they put in front of me. The writers do a great job and it’s interesting because when you ask me a question like that sometimes I almost forget that I’m living the same day over because the stories are so different. Each day is completely different from the next, because of the design of the show. So that’s the last thing that I’m ever worried about. Replaying a certain emotion or things of that nature. You know it’s the same as it would be in any series. It’s fun. That’s all I can say. It’s just fun revisiting certain plots, certain sets, certain characters but then having different things to say and then seeing a different outcome from that. So it’s pretty interesting.

Matthew, how do you intend to keep viewers interested in it if they feel like maybe they can guess what’s going to happen or they’ve seen it before?

MG: I guarantee you that no one’s going to know what’s going to happen, and feel like that they’ve seen it before. It’s a very, very different series. It’s very fresh. You know it’s a false assumption and it’s one that we know we have to deal with head on. So I’m here to tell everybody that the day is the same but it’s never the same. There’s nothing repetitive about this show. It’s not about Taye coming into the same scene with the same characters and playing it differently. It’s not like that at all. It’s how different is your day if you decided to go to work versus get in your car or go to the airport and fly to New York. Your day is going to play out completely different. The series is really about decisions and consequences and it’s the decisions that Hopper makes and the consequences of those decisions. So whenever he changes his move it’s going to affect the actions and the decisions of others. I guarantee you no one will ever guess what’s going to happen. There’s so many twists and turns. There’s unbelievable mystery and intrigue and as I said before we are going to solve that mystery.

What’s great about the show is that in every episode the audience is going to be given a cookie. They’re going to be rewarded for watching. They’re going to be given a clue. They’re going to be given a piece of the puzzle. A puzzle which I doubt they’ll figure out until they watch the last episode in which we will solve that mystery and the day will end and then next season we’ll have another day.

Will we find out why Brett Hopper can relive each day like this?

MG: The show is not about the why. In fact when I was looking for a writer to write this show, if they asked that question I knew they weren’t the right writer for the show. And I only say that because it’s the really underlying concept. It’s the concept you have to accept because we know it’s impossible. So it’s the concept of the show. You have to accept that concept and once you do it allows us to tell these stories and have unbelievable entertainment value. But it’s never about the why. It’s about the how, it’s why is this conspiracy happening to the character and you know why has he been framed for murder and who’s doing this and how does he solve it and what’s the bigger picture and why do they kill Garza, and you know and how does he save his girlfriend and that’s really what it’s about.

It’s got such potent emotions from that because that is what lasts the entire season. How does Brett get through this day and save Rita at the same time. That is the thing that he cherishes the most. And that’s why this is not just about a guy running down the street trying to solve a conspiracy. It’s full of emotion and relationships and there’s a wonderful relationship between Brett and his girlfriend Rita and Brett and his sister and Brett and his partner Andrea. You know there’s just great relationships here. So I think it’s going to be very appealing to woman for those reasons because it really pulls your heart strings and also really appealing to men because of the action.

Can you expand a bit on the genesis of the program and how it eventually got to ABC?

MG: I’m a producer and that’s what I do. You know I come up with concepts for shows and I put them together with the right writers and bring the right elements into it like the directors and actors. I’m sort of the glue as it were. I’m not a writer but I work very closely with writers and very closely with things, the way they’re developed but this is an idea that I just came up with you know. For some reason, I loved Groundhog Day but thriller genre is really where I come from. So the idea just popped into my head, what if we took this concept that’s generally, you know, comedic and put it in a repeating day of a thriller. And then ultimately what I did was I sat down with writers, I tried to marry them with the right project.

Paul Zybyszewski who extremely talented, I just can’t say enough about him, was someone I wanted to work with for some time. We danced around a couple of concepts in the past. I made a deal with him to write a script and this was a project that I pitched to him and he grabbed on to it immediately. He was elated because he just loved the idea so much but at the same point he’s like “oh my god, this is so complicated. How am I going to do this?” But in a very short time he was able to beat out a story for the series and that is what we pitched to ABC. We pitched the whole pilot. Generally you don’t do that when you pitch a series but this was such a high concept and we knew people were going to ask so many questions; “how does it work and where do we go and where do we take it, etc.” There’s just endless questions that they ask and there is a lot of scrutiny that they put under each project before they order it, because a lot of time and money and effort goes into the development of these things. But once we pitched it they jumped on it and we were off to the races.

Taye, how did you get involved with Day Break?

TD: I had a preexisting deal with Touchstone and ABC. It was designed to the point where prior to them deciding what shows they were going to use they’d have a bunch of scripts and they sent out a certain amount of scripts to the actors. I really enjoyed this one. I expressed interest and then it came to fruition from there.

MG: Taye actually was the one that I wanted to put in the series from day one and when I was aware that he wanted to do television, because I know he did Kevin Hill before, I just knew that he was the guy for the show because he’s so appealing, so likeable, so sympathetic. He has that every man quality that people just get sucked into immediately. They could see themselves in his shoes and that’s what’s the beauty of the show is. So I just knew that Taye was so appealing and he’s such a tremendous actor that I knew he would bring the real emotion to this role.

Matthew, how are you going to use the internet to promote this show? Are you going to put any content on the web site, etc.? A lot of shows have had success with promoting their own shows that way.

MG: The promotion for the show has been fantastic, mostly in part because Taye loves the show and he’s been so supportive and willing to do all these promotions for it. But the people at ABC and Touchstone have been fantastic and in terms of their web site — if you go on you can see the first two acts of our premiere right now. So I encourage you to do so and because we’re having a two hour premiere, it’s the first two episodes. So there’s absolutely content. There’s going to be podcasts. You know these are bigger corporate issues that obviously ABC and Touchstone have control over but they do a fantastic job and we’re giving them all the materials needed to support any and all internet endeavors.

I’m sure there’s going to be people trying a lot to point out little inconsistencies on the show. I say bring it on because, you know, we try to be very, very careful in terms of our continuity and why we do certain things. Like if you look, if you pay attention, you know, in this first season since he wakes up in his girlfriend’s apartment he’s sort of stuck with the clothes he has on his back literally. So he wears a T-shirt, he wears a long sleeve T-shirt, and he wears the woven shirt and his jacket. And what we’ve tried to do every time the day changes is change the combination of those clothes so literally you see that it’s a different day also. But hopefully we’ll have answers for some of their questions but there is very specific reasons why we do what we do and you would think that the same day would be easy for continuity but it makes it that much harder actually.

Taye, what do you do when you get off the set to kind of unwind and relax from this high-paced show?

TD: I go straight to bed. I’ve got like a 30 to 40 minute drive home. I go over my lines for the next day and then I hit the sack, maybe have a quick bite to eat but there’s not much time for anything else. I live my Saturdays pretty hard by catching up with my social life but the rest of the six days are pretty much dominated by the show.

What if Hopper can’t figure out how to fix the day? Is he going to move on to the next day or will he be stuck in that day possibly again for another season?

MG: No. He is going to absolutely by the end of the 13 episodes go to the next day. He will solve this conspiracy. He will solve it this season and then next season it will be something completely different like 24.

Taye, do you ever go online to just check out what the fans have to say?

TD: Only for pornography. Just kidding.

MG: Strike that from the record.

TD: Just joking. Just joking. I only have a very limited use of my computer. I check the e-mails but everybody here keeps me posted on all the activity and I’m pretty excited about the show I have to say.

Day Break debuts on ABC on Wednesday, November 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT and will run for 13 weeks at that spot.

Day Break debuts on the Global network on Wednesday, November 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT and will run for 13 weeks at that spot.

Sir Linksalot: Day Break